I've compiled a list of tips and tricks that I think are valuable to bakers everywhere! As I find new tips worth mentioning I will update this list.
1. Follow directions. This sounds like the simplest thing, but really! Do what the directions say! Many times a recipe gone wrong is not the recipe's fault, but the baker's fault for not following directions to the "T".
2. PREHEAT THE OVEN!!!!!
3. Unless otherwise stated, most ingredients should be room temperature. This is very important! You don't want to add cold milk to your room temperature butter, just to have the butter clump up and harden.
4. If you forgot to leave your butter out to soften in advance, you can cut up the butter into small 1/2 inch cubes and leave out for 30 minutes to soften. Or, if you're short on time, zap the cubes in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time until they are soft. Don't over soften or it will melt!
5. If you forgot to leave your eggs out to get room temperature, set the eggs (in their shells still) in a bowl of warm/hot water for 30 minutes.
6. When in a pinch, milk and vinegar can be used as a buttermilk substitute. Or milk and lemon juice. For every cup of buttermilk called for, use 1 cup of milk, less 1 Tb, and 1 Tb. of vinegar or lemon juice.
7. To correctly measure flour, it should be spooned and leveled in the measuring cup. Do not pack flour into a measuring cup. One thing I like to do is scoop and drop the flour in the container a few times before measuring, to fluff it up a little.
8. Parchment paper. One of the best inventions. Place parchment paper on your cookie sheets so you don't have to spray non-stick spray, and you have little-to-no clean up! My favorite use for it: CAKES!! Cut circles of parchment paper to fit the bottom of your cake pans for easy removal. You can even order pre-cut circles for you different sized cake pans! Manna from heaven!
9. Not everyone has cake flour on hand. When a recipe calls for cake flour, you can substitute every cup of cake flour called for with 1 cup of all-purpose flour, less 1 Tb, and 1 Tb. corn starch. Make sure to sift this mixture 2-3 times to make sure the corn starch is fully incorporated first.
10. A few helpful conversions you will eventually know by heart:
- 3 teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon
- 4 Tablespoons = 1/4 cup
- 2 cups = 1 Pint
- 4 cups = 2 Pints = 1 Quart
11. Baking powder and baking soda are two different things. They are not equally interchangeable! They are both leavening agents. Baking powder is less powerful as baking soda, but they both have different roles.
12. Chilling cookie dough really does make a huge difference. It really helps the flavors develop so much more, and they bake a lot different after being chilled first.
13. When measuring sticky ingredients like honey, or peanut butter, spray the measuring cup with non-stick spray first. This makes the release and clean up much easier!
14. When a recipe calls for sifted flour, the flour should be sifted into the measuring cup. If it says to measure the flour and then sift it, measure it (scoop and level) and then sift into the bowl.
15. When melting chocolate in the microwave, microwave for 30 second intervals, stopping to stir the chocolate between each interval. It might not look melted and you'll think it needs more time, but stir it first! Overheating it will cause it to seize, and it will be unusable.
16. Don't stress! Baking is supposed to be enjoyable! Have fun!